Jeffrey L Richey
"State of the Field: Enduring Myths and Emerging Trends in the Study of Early Chinese Philosophy and Religion," in Association for Asian Studies Newsletter v46 #1, 13-14 (April 2000).
Jeffrey joined the Project's WSW E-mail list in 1998. Within his overview article, he makes these comments about The Original Analects:
. . . Nevertheless, the impression that these texts ought to be read like any other "books" persists. Thus, many today believe that chapter order corresponds to chronological order and original authorial intent in these texts, and the myth of these texts' unsullied antiquity often is presented as fact. A Taeko Brooks and E Bruce Brooks have stirred these waters mightily with the landmark publication of The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors (Columbia University Press, 1998), in which they argue - often convincingly - that each chapter of "Confucius's book" represents a mixture of older and later material (some allegedly as late as 249 BCE), with each chronological layer corresponding to a different type of authorial concern within the developing Confucian schools or disciple-groups. The Analects emerges from their exhaustive study looking less like a cohesive "book" and more like the Bible: a disparate collection of sayings-sources, historical and biographical narratives, esoteric technical instructions, and wisdom literature.
Altogether, these recent scholarly publications have transformed our ideas about seminal Chinese texts and their reception in both Asia and the West. As a result, the field of early Chinese textual, philosophical, historical, and religious studies has become a great deal more complicated - and hence much more interesting. Twenty-five years ago, or even ten years ago, these texts appeared to many to have been picked clean by scholars. This clearly is no longer the case.
. . . This dovetails nicely with the Brookses' assertion that texts such as the Mengzi are understood best as lively conversations and debates, even conflicts, between different disciple groups over long stretches of time and redaction history. The Brookses, for example, are fond of discussing their theory of the "Northern Mencians" versus the "Southern Mencians" - putative disciple groups which they associate with particular portions of the Mengzi. (For those who are interested in reading further, this theory is described in E Bruce Brooks's article "The Present State and Future Prospects of Pre-Han Text Studies" in Sino-Platonic Papers 46 [July 1994]). David S Nivison's article "The Classical Philosophical Writings" in the aforementioned Cambridge History of Ancient China adopts the Brookses' revisionist theory of authorship when discussing classical texts such as the Laozi or the Guanzi, and emphasizes common concepts rather than rigid barriers between "schools."
8 April 2000 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page